It seems like forever ago that we entered the start of the 2020-21 school year, hopeful that the pandemic could be kept sufficiently at bay, enough to allow some semblance of normalcy for high school student-athletes, and, at the same time, fearful that an entire year would be lost, one for seniors that would be lost forever. But get through it we did—we being athletes, coaches, parents, and fans.
There were forfeits and rule changes and too much heartbreak, but we made it through to the other side. Everyone involved needs to be applauded for putting in the work and dealing with the weirdness. Here’s a look at those Northwest-side teams that did just a little bit better than others this year.
• Girls Golf: Ironwood Ridge’s girls won the only state championship this year for a Northwest school, edging out Cactus Shadows by two strokes over the two-day event. It was a squeaker. The top four Cactus Shadows players finished 1st, tied for 4th, 10th and 11th, while the top four Nighthawks finished 2nd, 3rd, tied for 4th and 12th.
The top player from Cactus Shadows will move on to Arizona State next year, while Ironwood Ridge returns all five of their top players, making the Nighthawks prohibitive favorites to repeat as State champs.
•Boys Golf: The Ironwood Ridge boys had a solid season, finishing 8th at state.
• Boys Swimming and Diving: The Lions of Pusch Ridge finished 14th in the State in the D-III standings, while Ironwood Ridge and Canyon Del Oro finished 6th and 7th, respectively, in D-II.
• Girls Swimming and Diving: Canyon Del Oro grabbed the 10th spot at state in D-II.
• Football: Amphi was well on its way to returning to its glory days, going a perfect 4-0 before the season was shut down due to COVID concerns. The Panthers outscored their four opponents by a combined score of 156-36.
• Girls Volleyball: Perennial powerhouse Ironwood Ridge had something of a down year, but still made it to the second round of the state tournament.
• Girls Basketball: Flowing Wells made it all the way to the 5A state championship game. They (and everybody else in the tournament) caught a giant break when top-seeded Casteel High had to forfeit its first-round game due to COVID. But the Cabs still had to win three tough games to reach the title game. They should be very good again next year, as well.
• Boys Basketball: The four 5A teams in the area all beat each other in the regular season and each missed crucial games due to COVID. Because of that, they all finished out of the Top 16 and missed going to state. Marana finished 19th, Ironwood Ridge was 22nd, Mountain View was 23rd, and Flowing Wells was 24th.
The boys basketball team that had the best season was Amphi. The Panthers actually won their division, but because of special COVID-season rules implemented by the AIA, they missed out on the 4A state tournament.
• Girls Soccer: Pusch Ridge and Ironwood Ridge each made it to state in their respective divisions. The Nighthawks lost in the first round, while the Lions reached the second round.
• Boys Soccer: Canyon Del Oro and Pusch Ridge both made it to state, but both lost in the first round.
• Boys Wrestling: Mountain View had a spectacular year, finishing second at state. Ironwoods Ridge’s boys came in fourth.
• Girls Wrestling: In the relatively new sport, Canyon Del Oro’s girls finished 10th in the State.
• Baseball: After being top-ranked in the state for much of the regular season, the Canyon Del Oro Dorados reached the State semifinals, where they suffered a surprising loss when their usually potent offense went cold.
• Softball: Mountain View made it to the second round of the 5A state tournament, but Ironwood Ridge went a step further, reaching the Final Four. In the 4A, CDO also reached the Final Four at State.
• Boys Volleyball: Mountain View had a great season, reaching the second round of the 5A state tournament.
• Beach Volleyball: Ironwood Ridge reached the second round of the Division I state tournament before losing a 3-2 heartbreaker. In Division II, Canyon Del Oro reached the state tournament as a team, losing in the first round. But then, in the pairs tournament, the team of Katie Call and Morgan Hains won two nail-biters to advance to the semifinals. In pairs, it is best-of-three and both of their wins went to three games.
• Boys Tennis: Ironwood Ridge and Canyon Del Oro had identical 9-2 records in the regular season, but because of the AIA’s convoluted Power Point system, Ironwood Ridge was ranked 12th and made it to State, while CDO finished 17th and just missed the Tournament.
• Girls Tennis: Pusch Ridge had a perfect 11-0 regular season and reached the second round of state.